If you’re moving in with your partner or getting married, you’ve probably had a lot on your mind recently. You could be looking for your dream home together, securing a loan for a car, or planning a wedding! 

But there’s something else important that might not be on your mind: buying life insurance as a couple

Arguably, life insurance for couples is one of the most important purchases you can make together. It’s an investment into your future together that ensures peace of mind. You know no matter what, your partner is protected.

But what should you look for? Who is the right provider for both of you? In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make the most informed decision possible, including:

  • Why couples need life insurance
  • When you should buy life insurance
  • The types of insurance available for couples

We’ll even give you insights on the best life insurance in Canada!

Why Couples Need Life Insurance

If you’re married or living with your partner, you probably have shared financial responsibilities. You might have a shared mortgage, kids to support, a joint bank account, or a co-signed loan. If one of you dies earlier than expected, the surviving partner will have to pay for these shared expenses completely on their own – unless you have life insurance. 

Life insurance gives the surviving partner and any dependents (e.g., kids or aging parents) a financial safety net. In the incredibly unfortunate event that both you and your partner pass away, it ensures that your dependents will be able to pay for their expenses and maintain their quality of life. 

That’s why having life insurance for couples is so important! It protects your entire family. Keep in mind that this financial contribution could be an income from employment or other contributions that reduce costs for a family, like a stay-at-home parent that provides “free” childcare.

Of course, life insurance doesn’t eliminate the emotional burden of death. But it can reduce the burden by minimizing the financial stress your family would face if you or your partner died unexpectedly. 

When to Buy Life Insurance as a Couple

You don’t need to break out the life insurance quotes on the first date – shocking, right?

But it's a necessary conversation as as you start putting more parts of your lives together. You probably want to consider life insurance as a couple when you and your partner start to have shared responsibilities or dependents. Most people reach this point when they get married or start living together – it’s a major milestone and where assets start to become combined. 

At this point, you probably also have more expenses than ever before. Maybe you’ve just put a down payment on a new home, went all out on an extravagant wedding that you’re now paying off, or spent a ton of money buying gear for the baby. As a result, it might be tempting to put off buying insurance for a few years.You’re both young and relatively healthy right now... can’t you afford to wait? 

It’s true that the risk of dying in your 20s or 30s is pretty low if you’re healthy. But it’s also a time where you may not be as financially secure as you would be in the future. You aren't making as high a salary as you would be in ten years, so any expenses may seem even more daunting right now. Because of this, if one of you did pass away unexpectedly, it could be even harder for your partner to cope financially. 

The good news, though, is that life insurance is also more affordable to buy when you’re young. At this stage of your life, you’re more likely to be healthy, so you’re less high risk to insure. and less risky to insure. If you and your partner apply for insurance sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to lock in a better rate.

a man and a woman sit down together at a kitchen table to eat breakfast

Types of Life Insurance for Couples

If you decide to start shopping around for life insurance as a couple, there are two types of plans you can get – single life insurance or joint life insurance. Both have their pros and cons, so let's break down these two options for life insurance for couples.

Single Life Insurance

When you and your partner buy life insurance for individuals, you each apply for and pay for your own policy. If one of you dies, that person’s death benefit pays out to their beneficiary.

So why do some couples choose to buy policies as individuals? Well, there are some major benefits to buying single life insurance policies as a couple, including:

  • The flexibility to choose different coverage amounts: With different plans, you can choose different coverage amounts and length. This makes sense if your financial contributions differ or are expected to last for different amounts of time.  
  • Longer coverage: If one of you passed away, the other partner’s policy will continue to cover them until their policy expires. 
  • Simpler division if necessary: If you and your partner are married and get divorced, you won’t have to deal with the headache of trying to split your coverage into two separate policies. You’ll each continue to be covered separately by your individual policies. 

Of course, just like when you buy airline tickets, flexibility comes at a cost. You’ll usually pay more to buy two single life insurance policies than to buy a joint life insurance policy. 

Joint Life Insurance

If you’re married or in a common-law relationship, you have the option of buying a joint life insurance policy instead of two single policies. A joint life insurance policy is a single policy that covers you and your partner. Depending on your policy type, your death benefit pays out when the first partner dies (a first-to-die policy) or when both of you have died and paid out to a different beneficiary, like children (a second-to-die policy). 

When you buy joint life insurance, you’ll usually pay a bit less than if you had bought two single policies. If you’re both young and relatively healthy, the difference in cost might be pretty minimal. 

There are also some limitations to joint life insurance policies to consider:

  • Same timelines: You don’t have to worry about keeping track of plans on different coverage times. With joint life insurance, the amount and length of coverage will be the same for you and your partner. 
  • Coverage of surviving partner: With a first-to-die policy, the surviving partner isn't covered after their partner dies. And depending on how old the surviving partner is at this point, buying a new policy could be pricey. 
  • Risk of higher rates in the future: If your relationship ends before death, you'll have to apply for a new policy. At an older age, you'll be more expensive to insure. 

So, what do you choose?

If you need to minimize costs as much as possible and you’re eligible to apply for joint coverage, buying joint life insurance might be the right move for you. But if it’s more important to you to have flexible and robust coverage for the entire length of time that you expect to need it for, fork over the extra cash for two single policies. 

How to Find the Best Life Insurance for Couples

Lots of insurance companies will offer to provide coverage for you and your partner, sometimes even as one plan. So how do you know which provider to choose? 

Here’s what to look for when searching for the best life insurance for couples: 

  • Price: Obviously, you want to find the lowest price possible. Some insurers will give you a discount when you and your partner both apply for coverage. 
  • Faster approval: Don’t want to spend months waiting for approval? Look for insurers that process applications quickly. 
  • Electronic application and document delivery: This is an important part of the above criteria! You’ll typically get coverage faster when you choose an insurer that accepts applications and delivers insurance documents electronically. 

PolicyMe’s Top Pick for Couples

Although there are lots of great insurers in Canada, we’ve identified Manulife Financial as the best insurance company for couples. 

Manulife has a Combined Family Term life insurance policy that covers you and your partner while operating like two separate policies that pay out two separate death benefits. You’ll get a discount when you and your partner combine your policies like this. 

Most insurers will give you a discount (usually $3–5 per month) when you and your partner apply for coverage. With Manulife, you’ll get an extra 3% savings when you both select the same coverage amount and policy length. They’re the only insurance company that offers this additional discount. 

Manulife is usually the most affordable option if you and your partner plan to apply for coverage together. And because Manulife processes applications quickly and delivers documents electronically, you’ll spend less time waiting for that affordable coverage to land in your inbox. Pretty sweet, right?

If you're in a new relationship and want to look for a life insurance policy individually to start, you can always add your partner as a beneficiary!

Wondering how other Canadian insurance companies stack up? Check out our reviews of providers of the best life insurance in Canada this year.

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

Laura brings 7 years of experience working in insurance & strategic operations as a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, after experiences at Manulife and Munich Re. In 2017, she launched a successful initiative for the World Economic Forum focused on innovation in insurance, working closely with insurers, tech pioneers, and policy-makers.

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